Vegetables Bringing Change to the whole Village

Prepared by: Bishnu Dhakal and Pitambar Shrestha with input from Siv Helen Strømland.

With support for vegetable cultivation and the establishment of a weekly market, families who used to have very little food and income, are now creating big changes for themselves and their village.   

The daily routine of the fifty former bonded laborers women of Shaktinagar village in Bardiya has changed now. They work almost every day on their farm, however small, mostly less than 0.17 hectare, cultivating vegetables. Sometimes they go to nearby villages carrying a basket of vegetables either on their heads or on a bicycle for selling to the villagers. The weekly market started in their village has made it much easier as they do not need to travel far away frequently for selling vegetables.

Two and a half years back, the situation was very different. They used to cultivate rice and some seasonal vegetables in a small area, or a few plants mainly in the rainy season. Since water for irrigation was not available, the land used to remain fallow for the whole year other than in the rainy season. The main income source of the family was either daily wage work in the surrounding villages or income earned by the male members of the family staying in India as a seasonal migrant worker. More than 700 landless and freed bonded laborer families were following this practice for more than 15 years in the village.

Now, the small farms of many families in the village look green throughout the year. They harvest fresh greens almost every day for the family consumption and almost every alternate day or at least once a week, for selling in the market. The income earned by some families is beyond their imagination. In 2019, Bujhauini Tharu cultivated vegetables in 0.2 hectares of land and recorded a cash income of 112 thousand Nepalese Rupees. Before, from that same area of land, she used to harvest only 1,000 kgs of rice and wheat equivalent to 25 thousand Rupees at the max. 

Labara Tharu from Sewanagar Kalika, Photo: Krishna Kumar shrestha, LI-BIRD

Similarly, Tulasi Tharu has reported 139 thousand rupees income from vegetables in 2019. Initially, she had started planting vegetables in about 0.07 hectare in 2018 and expanded to 0.27 hectares in 2019 by leasing land from a neighbor. There are fifty families cultivating vegetables in Shaktinagar and earnings are ranging from Nepalese Rupees 20 thousand to 140 thousand annually. All these families are thrilled with the income from the vegetable of the small piece of land they own. 

The families cultivate both seasonal and off seasonal vegetables. They are able to cultivate vegetables throughout the year as LI-BIRD with funding support from the Development Fund, Norway has supported the installation of one solar energy-based irrigation system benefiting ten households and eight submersible motors serving 62 households. Starting in mid-2017, these families also received seeds and small agricultural tools, plastic tunnel, training, and on-farm technical services from LI-BIRD.

Initially, 20 families became involved in vegetable cultivation, but gradually one after another, the number of households increased. The proposal of LI-BIRD staff for initiating a weekly market in the villages was materialized by the village leaders and cooperative management. Every Friday, the vegetable producers come to the weekly market for selling vegetables located in the same village. 

The initiative was further supported by the Rural Municipality and agriculture extension agency. The ward office of the Badhaiyataal Rural Municipality provided support for the construction of shade at the weekly market in collaboration with LI-BIRD. Twenty families also received 2 auto-spray tanks, 1 motor for uplifting groundwater and one power tillers from the extension office. 

The Tharu women who used to be shy to speak with outsiders are traveling from one village to another and to weekly market for selling vegetables. They are earning a good sum of money for the family. This is a big change observed by Sabita Tharu, the chairperson of the Janasahayogi Agriculture Cooperative. 

The chairperson of the Janasahayogi Cooperative selling her vegetbale in the weekly market in the village, Photo: Krishna Kumar Shrestha, LI-BIRD

The project team wants to make sure people are not made over-dependent on external agencies. Thus, as soon as the family starts earning, they are encouraged to buy necessary inputs on their own, that way the external support is gradually reduced and in turn provided to new members. The cooperative is gradually developing its capacity to supply the necessary input and credit needed to the farmers. The project has supported the cooperative to establish a fund amounting to eight hundred thousand Nepalese Rupees for providing collateral-free low-interest loans to the members for conducting income-generating activities.  

The villagers remember those days of many people coming to their village from outside for selling vegetables. Now the cycle has been reversed – the people of Shaktinagar village go to other villages for selling vegetables. This has been possible not only because of the involvement of those fifty families in vegetable cultivation, but also because 377 families are involved in various project activities including improvement of their home garden, seed production, rearing goats and other income-generating activities. All these activities are contributing to food security, family nutrition, income and improving livelihoods of people of Shaktinagar in one or more ways.

Note: Since 2017 June, LI-BIRD is implementing Livelihoods and Resilience Enhancement Project (LREP) in Bardiya, Kailali, Humla, and Sindhupalchok districts covering 5700 freed bonded laborers, earthquake affected and marginal farm families with funding support from NORAD through the Development Fund, Norway.